March 20, 2003 — In at least 11 countries, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, new estimates released today put the number of suspected SARS cases at 306, The death toll from the disease is 10.
Researchers say they have also made significant progress in identifying the cause of the pneumonia or respiratory disease seen in SARS. However, to date, regardless of the cause of pneumonia, symptoms have been treated with supportive measures and antibiotics.
Earlier this week, labs in Germany and Hong Kong announced that they had found a bacterium from SARS in nasal swabs taken from SARS. Patients with virus strains of the Paramyxoviridae family. Paramyxoviruses are known to cause measles, mumps, canine distemper and other diseases in humans and animals.
Now German officials say they have also found the virus in the blood of a SARS patient whose mother, a Singaporean A doctor’s law, he treated patients with symptoms of pneumonia, the original victims of SARS.
The discovery of the virus in an individual’s blood provides strong evidence that the virus may be the cause of disease, But officials stressed that these are still only preliminary findings. The researchers believe that the strain found in SARS patients may be a new form of paramyxovirus, because previous tests had ruled out other known types of the virus.
Once the cause of the mysterious pneumonia is found, officials say they could develop a diagnostic test to help doctors and health officials screen for suspected cases and Facilitates the treatment of patients with respiratory symptoms due to other causes of pneumonia.
Prior to determining the cause of a mysterious illness or pneumonia, the World Health Organization broadly defines a case of severe acute respiratory syndrome as:
- Fever over 100.4 degrees;
- One or more of the following respiratory symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, or pneumonia on X-ray;
- and Close contact with a known SARS case within the last 10 days, or a history of travel to one of the affected areas.
Most SARS cases are concentrated in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Singapore, but other suspected cases have also been reported in southern China, Taiwan , Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
CDC says it is currently investigating California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin.
CDC Director Julie Gerberding said none of the cases were confirmed and all involved people who had recently traveled to affected areas. people. There is currently no evidence of human-to-human transmission of SARS in the U.S.
Gerberding said SARS appears to be transmitted only through contact with infected individuals ( such as close personal contact with an infected individual’s family members or healthcare workers. There is no evidence that casual contact with SARS patients can lead to infection.
Symptoms of pneumonia or respiratory illness from SARS appear within 2 to 7 days of exposure. The CDC health alert advises travelers to Southeast Asia to seek immediate medical attention if they develop a fever and respiratory symptoms (such as cough or difficulty breathing) within 10 days of traveling to the affected area. The associated travel advisory also states that U.S. citizens planning non-essential travel to areas affected by the SARS outbreak may wish to delay travel until further notice.
Currently, officials say there is no reason to believe that the mysterious pneumonia could have an unnatural cause or be an example of a bioterrorism attack. The pattern of pneumonia outbreaks is typically expected from contagious respiratory or flu-like illnesses, but CDC officials say they are open to the issue.
Click here for frequently asked questions about SARS.
Source: Press Release, World Health Organization. Press release, CDC. ProMED-mail, “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Global (09)”, 19 March 2003. WebMD Medical News: “New Clues in Deadly Pneumonia Outbreak.”